tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN December 11, 2014 10:00am-11:33am EST
dakota. you made sure that i always knew what was on the minds of south dakotans, you visited crisis situations, local and tribal governments, businesses, schools and much more. thank you. linda robinson, thank you for your dedication, willingness to go the extra mile in your outreach to and services for our state's veterans for 28 years. the senate office only had one office manager for the last 18 years as the most insightful person that i know. the university of south dakota will be forever grateful when they receive the archives nancy
assembled. thank you. to the standing committees on banking and milcon, you have served our nation well and i know that you will continue to do so in the future. thank you for your leadership on important issues. i'm looking forward to the years ahead and the time that we will share. to my wife barbara and our three children, thank you for your unwavering support, for putting up with late night dinners, for accepting that my work demanded that i was away so many weekends and for working side by side with me on challenging
campaigns. without your understanding, love, and support, i could not have done the work that i love. finally, to the people of south dakota, thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you and our state legislature, the house of representatives and the united states senate. thank you for working side by side with me to improve the lives of south dakotaans and our nation. mr. president, i yield the floor.
the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i rise today to bid farewell to my colleague and friend senator tim johnson. tim has deep roots in south dakota in the towns of canton and vermillion in particular. he served our state for more than 35 years, first in the state legislature. then after winning a highly
competitive primary against two well-known democrat opponents in the halls of congress. in 1996, after a decade in the u.s. house of representatives, tim won his first of three terms in the united states senate. i'm well acquainted with his second election because i came out on the short end of that stick. but i've had the privilege of serving with tim now in the south dakota delegation for over 16 years. today i want to pay tribute to his many years of public service and all he's done for our home state. i'd also like to take a moment to thank senator johnson's staff for their dedicated work. they've worked closely with my staff for many years and i'm grateful for their efforts. mr. president, like many south dakotans, i will always remember tim as a fighter. south dakotans are tough, rugged folks and tim exemplified that spirit every day in the united states senate. a big part of his legacy as a
public servant will be his tenacity, his work ethic and his unwavering focus on the policies that he believed to be in the best interest of south dakota. tim and i haven't always seen eye to eye on every issue. we've always been able to come together and work for south dakotans in times of crisis, from drought relief to flood and tornado responses to protecting the black hills from wildfires, senator johnson and i have always been able to quickly respond to the needs of our state regardless of party differences or past disagreements. mr. president, when you represent a state like south dakota, what some people like to call a flyover state, a state that some of our colleagues here in the senate occasionally mix up with north dakota, there are days when it can seem like the concerns of rural americans aren't given fair consideration. the needs of rural america are not being heard by the administration or more densely
populated areas of our country. i've had the great pleasure of working with tim to bring a voice to the concerns of rural america and those of us who hail from the middle of the country. to highlight one of the many examples i could bring up, since his first term in congress, tim has fought tirelessly for water infrastructure to deliver clean drinking water to families in south dakota and throughout the great plains. water is a vital resources in the rural expanses of south dakota and tim's efforts helped meet this basic need in underserved indian reservations, small towns and rural areas across our state. these developments will pay dividends well beyond his tenure in the senate. throughout tim's long career in public service from his beginnings in the south dakota legislature to his ascension to the chairmanship of the senate banking committee, he has had a hand in numerous efforts that will hem south dakotans and americans alike for generations to come. and i know i speak for all south
dakotans when i say thank you, tim, for your dedication and your service to our great state. it's been an honor to serve with you here in the united states senate. thank you for your example, your efforts on behalf of our beloved south dakota, and most of all for your friendship. on behalf of my wife kimberly and me, i wish you, barbara and your family the very best as you begin a new chapter. mr. president, i yield the floor.
mrs. gillibrand: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mrs. gillibrand: the d.o.d. just reported that in 2014 almost the same number of service members -- 19,000 -- reported unwanted sexual contact as in 2010. still less than three out of ten are willing to report. the overall percentage of those who are reporting openly and seeking justice is declining. and a striking 62% tree --
retaliation rate went unchanged from 2012. and despite retaliation having been made a crime in last year's ndaa, the pentagon reports no indication of progress on that front. despite the pentagon's spin, these numbers do not show an increased trust in a system that simply isn't working for the men and women in uniform. mr. president, i want to draw your attention to comments made by the chairman of the joint chief of staffs, general martin dempsey, made earlier this year. he said -- quote -- "we're currently on the clock, if you will. the president of the united states said to us in december, you know what, we've got about a year to review this thing and show me you can make a difference. we understand that just because senator gillibrand's vote was defeated yesterday doesn't mean that a year from now it may not be reintroduced. and if we haven't been able to demonstrate we're making a
difference, you know then we deserve to be held to the scrutiny and the standard." mr. president, there is no mission in the world where our military -- in our military where this much failure would be allowed. and based on general dempsey's own time line, our men and women in uniform deserve a vote on this broadly bipartisan reform because the military has not been able to demonstrate that they can make this difference. and, therefore, they should be held to the scrutiny this year. throughout last year we have continued to see the evidence of how much farther we have to go to solve the problem of sexual assaults in our military. we saw brigadier general jeffrey sinclaire, one of the highest ranking officers ever charged with sexual assault, walk away with a slap on the wrist.
reportedly over fears that the commanding officer had rejected a plea deal on lesser charges for political reasons, despite stated concerns over evidence. that case brings up the very important issue of undue command influence. another reason why an independent justice system is needed. we should all be able to agree our brave men and women in uniform deserve blind justice. the scales should not be tipped in either direction in favor of a victim or an accused. why should our service members enjoy a lesser standard of justice and fairness than you and i whose freedoms they risk everything to protect? according to a recent story in "the new york times," an attendee of a sexual assault prevention seminar was asked if things were improving. she said, "we all laughed. sinclaire was happening then. he proved this was a joke." the tiems also con celd -- the
times chronicled the story of a survivor they called chris from ellsworth air force base. on april 12, 2013, two dozen male officers gathered at a strip club including her commander. she was assaulted later that night, again according to the times -- quote -- "what christen countered according to the report was the same kind of cold shouldered skepticism on the part of her commander that chris had seen, behavior that was supposed to have changed with the military's vows to report those who reported sex crimes. further she was retaliated against which is now supposed to be a crime and was told by a commander -- quote -- "it's illogical for you to think that there won't be negative consequences to your reporting." as, she says, i was put on the shelf." why in the world would we want
this commander who takes his team to a strip club and retaliates against a sexual assault victim to have the authority to decide if a crime was committed or not? it's insane and it's beneath our military members. i could read many more troubling cases, but perhaps the most eye-opening showing the ongoing lack of accountability was revealed in testimony by a witness at a court-martial on september 24, 2014, just two months ago. in this case former fort letter wood drill sergeant angel sanchez was found guilty on multiple accounts sexually assaulting female trainees. witnesses said if any more come forward the whole company of soldiers won't graduate.
not i don't want to see any sexual assaults. rather i don't want to see any more reports. here's how you really know the system is broken. when a cadet is instrumental in obtaining the first sexual assault convictions in over a decade at the air force academy, he's expelled. when a chief prosecutor is too good at his job and briefs members of congress, he's retaliated against and forced out. or when a survivor comes forward, she's put on a shelf. time is short, but there's more than enough time for us to, for congress to actually do its job. we shouldn't have more calls for just a little more time. the d.o.d. has failed on this issue for over 20 years now and the scandals of the last 12 months and the latest data shows that they still don't get it. as the "usa today" said -- quote -- "over the decades sexual
scandals have spurred cycles of pentagon apologies, congressional hand wringing, half-baked attempts at action and nibble around the edges changes. isn't it time that men and women who serve their country so noblely have a justice sim that will serve them -- have a justice system that will serve them as victims of crime? i agree. our service members deserve no less. i ask unanimous consent that at a time to be determined by the majority leader, after consultation with the republican leader, the senate proceed to the consideration of calendar number 644, s. 2992, the military justice improvement act, that there be up to one hour equally divided between the proponents and opponents of the bill prior to the vote on passage of the bill, that the
vote on passage be subject to a 60 affirmative vote threshold. finally, that there be no amendments, points of order or motions in order to proceed to the bill. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. inhofe: i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. inhofe: mr. president, i think it might be appropriate for the ranking member of the appropriate personnel committee to be heard on this because i -- in my opinion, he is the most knowledgeable person in this subject at this time. that would be senator graham. mr. graham: thank you. the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham: thank you very much. i join in the objection with senator inhofe. i really appreciate what senator inhofe and levin have done over the last couple of years. working in a bipartisan fashion to make sure that we deal with a problem in the military that's a problem in society -- sexual assault, sexual harassment, and to set a zero tolerance policy,
but at the same time keep the military in a position to defend this country. and who does -- what can we say about our military? you have heard her view. my view is it's the finest military in the world. great people. but within that construct, you have people doing things that are just criminal, wrong, but is it any different in the military than it is anywhere else? my argument is that this is a societal problem, and in the military it is a problem that is being addressed in i think a very aggressive fashion, and i like where we're headed, contrary to what the senator from new york offers the senate. in march, we rejected her approach and her approach was to fire every commander and replace the commander with a bunch of military lawyers to make decisions not just about sexual assault but about aspects of military life far beyond that.
i know the presiding officer has been a military commander. barracks theft is a very big deal in the military. when you're in the military and you find out someone has stolen from another member of the unit and you're all living together on top of each other said by side, that is a very big deal and the commander responsible for that unit needs to make sure something happens fairly. the last thing i will ever agree to is the following -- sir, ma'am, this is the first sergeant going to the commander, last night we think there may have been a rape in the barracks and the commander say well, that's no longer my problem. send that over to the lawyers. what a terrible thing to do to a military unit. the commander needs more account ability, not less. the commander is the person we choose to send people to war. it's odd to me that we're going to give the commanders of the
american military the power of life and death decisions but somehow they are so morally corrupt or incapable of rendering justice in a situation like this. all i can say is the people behind this, i respect your fashion to a point, but you're going too far. members on the other side of the aisle have been threatened with money being cut off if we vote against this idea. this is no longer about reforming a system. this is a political cause going out of control. in my view, the good thing about the armed services committee is that we have always been able for the most port to work through problems that affect our military. and i want to say to senator levin, above all others, i appreciate your maturity, your leadership to make sure we get the right answer. the right answer is to purge the military of the heinous crime of sexual assault, sexual
harassment, clean up this mess but do not destroy the structure that makes it the finest military on the planet, and we're well on our way. now, her bill last year did not make it through the senate, but another bill did. senator ayotte, senator mccaskill, senator fischer along with the chairman and others came up with a reform package that i think was passed unanimously last march. what do we know now from the recent report? you would have to have such a bias about your view to believe that this report doesn't show progress. by any objective measurement, the reforms that were being worked on in a bipartisan fashion are beginning to bear fruit. let me give you some of those reforms. every victim of a sexual assault or of sexual harassment allegations in the military are to be assigned an individual
lawyer, a judge advocate to represent their interests. i don't know about your state, but in south carolina, we're miles away from that. the goal of the senators that i have just mentioned and myself is to make sure that the military is the most victim-friendly legal system in america but you can still get a fair trial. that should be the goal of all of us. so every victim has a lawyer. now as to the commander's role in this process, i have been a judge advocate for 32 years now. i am trying to think long and hard of the times that i have known the lawyer, the legal community recommend to the commander go forward in a sexual assault case and the commander says no. it's literally a handful or less that i can think of. but i can tell you there are a lot more cases where the lawyer says sir, ma'am, we don't think we have enough here to prove
this beyond a reasonable doubt and the commander will say go for it anyway. i want to make sure we air this out. that's the most common use of a commander's discretion vis-a-vis their lawyer. but to those who are worried about making sure the commanders and the lawyers understand where we are coming from, we made a wholesale change of how you report and dispose of these cases. if a judge advocate recommends to the military commander in question to go forward and the commander says no, that commander's decision to say no is reviewed by the secretary of the service. so in my case, the secretary of the air force. if the air force commander is given legal advice by their jag, we have a good case, the commander says no in the area of sexual assault, it goes all the way up to the secretary of the air force. if anybody who has ever been in the military knows, that's a very big deal. that's the ultimate sign that we expect people to treat these allegations seriously. if the jag and the commanders
say no to prosecution, it goes to the level next up in the chain of command. what did this report say, and i will let senator levin detail some of the results, but here's the big takeaway. more people are coming forward, which is a good thing. more people are telling us that we feel better able to come forward because the system is more understanding. the lawyer being provided to the -- to the victim has been received very, very well. the number of reports that were restricted, i'm going to tell you about what happened to me, but i don't want to go through the process of prosecuting somebody because i don't want to go through that process myself. the number of restricted reports that are now unrestricted has gone up fairly dramatically, meaning that the victim believes there will be somebody there helping them through the system.
retaliation. that's a problem all over society, but here's what we did. i don't know of any law in south carolina that makes it a specific crime to in the eyes of the victim have retaliated against bringing an allegation forward. under the uniform code of military justice, we put in place a crime to retaliate against someone making an assault complaint, and the retaliation portion of the report for 62% felt retaliation, almost all of that came from pure lower level members of the unit, not the commander. and here's what i would say, is that once the commander goes forward and gives their blessing to the allegation, retaliation is going to be less likely against the commander who made the decision in that unit, not some faroff lawyer. i will turn this over. there are so many more reforms that are paying dividends.
many of them haven't even started yet. but hears what i would say. we're on the right track. let's give this a chance. we're taking this seriously. the military is responding in a positive fashion. now is not the time to retreat from these reforms. and i do believe what we have done today will help us tomorrow, and our goal is common -- to eliminate the scourge of sexual assault, sexual harassment, because it really does destroy a unit, but keep the military command structure the way it is because it's necessary to hold our commanders more accountable. i would end with this thought. there is no problem in the military that can be solved without commander buy-in. that's the role of the commander. and to everybody who wonders about what's going on in the military legal community, this colonel who feels put upon, if i am personnel committee chairman, this person will get a chance to come to our committee with senator gillibrand and myself, if i'm there, to give an
accounting of what they think went wrong with the system and how they were treated and the air force will be required to respond. but let me just say this -- every judge advocate of every branch of the service opposes the gillibrand approach. every commander, every member of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff oppose what she is proposing, for very good reason. give these reforms a chance. to all those who have worked on this, congratulations. we're moving in the right direction but we have a long way to go. i would yield back. mrs. gillibrand: mr. president? mr. levin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: mr. president, we are going to soon vote on cloture on -- and by the way, i understand there was an objection to the unanimous consent request of senator gillibrand. the presiding officer: that's correct. mr. levin: it's an objection in which i join. i understand that she wanted to
respond for one minute. and i have no objection if we can really do it in one minute, because i would like to close the debate prior to the vote on cloture. my friend from oklahoma, the ranking member, i think also wanted to comment. we have three minutes to go. mrs. gillibrand: i ask unanimous consent for one minute. mr. levin: i would yield for one minute. the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mrs. gillibrand: i want to clarify a few things that's very misleading about this debate. first of all, we are not making the commanders less responsible. they are the only ones who can prevent retaliation from happening, whether it is by them or lower ranks, and they are failing in that right now. the only difference this bill makes is that 3% of commanders the highest ranking commanders, generals, will no longer make this decision, but trained military prosecutors. 97% of commanders' jobs do not change. they have to train their forces, they have to bring them into battle, they have to instill good order and discipline, and they have to make sure these victims aren't being retaliated
against. that is where they are failing. we are making commanders more responsible, not less responsible, and what i want is not the most victim-friendly place in the world. i want no victims, and that's where we are failing. i yield the floor. mr. levin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: we're going to soon be voting on cloture on h.r. 3979, which represents the agreement between the armed services committees of the senate and the house on the national defense authorization act for fiscal year 2015. i urge my colleagues -- and i know that my good friend from oklahoma, the ranking member, joins in this urging -- to support kleczka so that we can enact this important bill into law. the armed services committee approved the defense authorization bill by a 25-1 vote in may. in june, senator inhofe and i came to the senate floor to urge senators to begin to file amendments to the bill so that we could work on a package of
cleared amendments and try to identify relevant amendments that would need votes. we made the same request in july. when our efforts failed to bring about a unanimous consent to bring the committee-reported bill to the floor with an opportunity to offer relevant amendments, we began to meet with the house armed services committee in an effort to reach a bipartisan agreement that could be presented to the two houses for approval in the form of a new bill. we also established an informer clearing process pursuant to which we were able to clear 44 senate amendments, wonderful an equal number of democratic and republican amendments, and we included them in the bill that is now before us. the process is far from ideal, but it was the best that we could do under the circumstances. we now have before us a bill that is the product of a bipartisan, bicameral agreement between the armed services committee of the senate and the house of representatives. the house has already passed this bill by a vote of 300-119. i'm going to ask that the
balance of my statement which describes the provisions in this bill be inserted in the record at this point. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. levin: we have produced a defense bill that does the right thing for our national defense and for our troops, and i would hope that our colleagues will vote for cloture, and i hope i have a minute left to yield to the ranking member. mr. inhofe: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: i know we're out of time. the vote is going to take place in one minute. i appreciate that. i want to add one thing. it is i think the most significant thing. we have to pass this bill. the house is going to go home. there is no way of making any changes at this point. it's got to pass. if it doesn't pass and december 31 gets here, there will be 1.8 million enlisted personnel throughout the country at all of our establishments who are going to lose their benefits, and i'm talking about the pilot pay, flight pay. i'm talking about the seals who have extraordinary duties and all the rest of them.
these benefits will be taken away from our enlisted personnel if we don't pass this bill. in order to pass this bill, we have got to pass this procedural vote that is going to take place right now. so i encourage everyone to keep in mind, if you really want to help our enlisted personnel, they have got to have this bill and this vote has got to pass now. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, hereby move to bring to a close the debate on the motion to concur in the house amendment to the senate amendment to h.r. 3979, signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the motion to concur in the house amendment to the senate
the presiding officer: any senators wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, on this vote the yeas are 85, the nays are 14. three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn having voted in the affirmative, the motion is agreed to. cloture having been invoked, the motion to infer falls as being inconsistent with cloture. the clerk will call the roll.
the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: following the tradition of the senate, i come to the floor -- i would ask the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coburn: following the tradition of the senate, i come to the floor to speak about my experiences in the senate. unfortunately, this won't be the last time i speak, many to many of -- much to many of your chagrin as i have some adamant opposition to some of the things that we're doing, but i nevertheless will try to put in context system of my feelings and thoughts about the great privilege that has been granted to me by the people of oklahoma.
we hear -- we hear a lot of speeches in this place, and as members who are elected, it gets reflected on us, but nothing could be further from the truth, because the thing that really makes this place operate is the people that work with us, the people that support us, the people that help guide us. the presiding officer: would you please take your conversations outside. the senate will come to order. mr. coburn: the people behind the scenes who are both brilliant and committed and dedicateed to the founding principles of this country. and we all have them working for us.
and yet, they are rarely recognized. and so whether our accomplishments are big or small , those accomplishments come through the work effort and labors of those that join with us as we come here to try to make a difference. so i first wanted to say that there are a lot of people i need to say thank you to. from our parliamentarian, elizabeth, to all the staff that works here in the senate. to the people who work at g.a.o.
, wonderful people. c.r.s. the i.g.'s. leg counsel. they have written thousands, i mean literally thousands of amendments for me. they are probably going to have some real mixed feelings. about my departure. and then i have personal staff. all tremendous, but one of which i have found to be a phenomenal,
brilliant person. his notre dame's -- his name's roland foster. there is not anything he has ever forgotten. you can ask him anything. he'll find it. he knows it. and so i mention him. i have hundreds of others that i can equally speak about from my former chief of staff mike schwarz who passed away from lou gehrig's disease, to those in my office and staff that each know what a difference they make, and
they did. the cloakroom staff and the help that we get from david chappa and mr. duncan on our side. same on the opposite side. we're only able to function because of all the people that enable us to do that. and so with those thank yous, i actually wanted to move to a -- really a different topic. and the topic is believing in our country. i tell people wherever i go we do not have one problem we can't
solve. there's nothing too big for us. they're all solvable. and to prove that, is my chairman, tom carper on homeland security. he has been a phenomenal chairman. he is not of my party. we don't agree on everything. but the one thing we agreed on was that we were going to work together to solve problems. , and we have. we didn't solve them all. but i would suggest if you look at what's come through this place, even in this dysfunctional place at this time, you have seen more coming
out of his leadership than any other pieces of legislation. and why is that? it is because the focus wasn't about him, it wasn't about me. it was about solving the problems of our country. to those of you through the years who i have offended, i truly apologize. and i think none of that was intended because i actually see things different.
can we cheat history? can we do something better than was done in the past? and i honestly believe we can, but i don't believe we can if we continue to ignore the wisdom of our founding documents. and so when i have offended, i believe it's been on the basis of my belief in article 1, section 8. i think we can stuff that genie back into the bottle. e pluribus unum. out of many, one.
but you don't have one unless you have guaranteed the liberty of the many, and when we ignore what the constitution gave us as a guideline, to protect the individual liberties, to limit the size and scope of the federal government so that the benefit of freedom and liberty can be expressed all across this land, that's when we get back to solving our problems. i think about my father. he had a fifth grade education.
a great believer in our country. he wouldn't recognize it today. the loss of freedom that we have imposed by the arrogance of an all too powerful central government, ignoring the wisdom and writings of our founders that said above all we must protect the liberty of the individual and recognize that liberty as a god-given right. so my criticism isn't directed personally. it's because i purely believe
that freedom gains us more than anything we can plan up here, and i know not everybody agrees with me, but the one thing i do know is our founders agreed with me. they had studied this process before. they knew what happens when you dominate from a central government. and it doesn't mean intentions are bad. the intentions are great. the motivations of people in this body are wonderful. but the perspective on how we do it and what the long-term consequences of how we do it really do matter. and so we see ourselves today with a president that we need to be supporting and praying for, with an economy that's not doing
what it could be doing, and we need to be asking the questions why. is there a fundamental reason? and there is. we're too much involved in the decision making in the economy in this country that inhibits the flow of capital to the best return, which inhibits the growth of wealth, which leaves us at a standard of living the same as what we had in 1988. that's where we are. and yet it doesn't have to be that way. i'm going to read you some things you've all heard before but they're worth re-reading. "we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they're endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.
all of us that among these are life, liberty" -- liberty -- "and the pursuit of happiness." and i look at legislation and say how does it have an impact on those two things? and too often it has a negative impact. "that to secure these rights, government are instituting to men deriving their just powers from consent of the governed. that when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it." i don't know where we are on that continuum but i know we're not where we were intended to be in the vision of our founders. and we are suffering, no matter where you are in this country, as a consequence of it. and we established the constitution to try and protect
those rights and to delineate those rights. and we put in there the limitation of the government, outlined the rights of each individual citizen upon which the government shall not infringe. and yet what comes out of this body and this congress every d day, to my chagrin, infringes those guaranteed rights. every member of the senate takes the same oath and here's where i differ with a lot of my colleagues. and let me read the oath to you. because i think it's part of our problem. "i do solemnly swear or affirm that i will support and defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that i will bear true faith and
allegiance to the same; that i take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that i will well and faithfully discharge the duties o of the office on which i'm about to enter, so help me god." your state isn't mentioned in that oath one time. your whole goal is to protect the united states of america, its constitution, and its liberties. it's not to provide benefits for your state. that's where we differ. that's where my conflict with my colleagues has come. it's nice to be able to do things for your state but that isn't our charge. our charge is to protect the future of our country by upholding the constitution and ensuring the liberty that's guaranteed there is protected
and preserved. the magic number in the senate is not 60. the number of senators needed to end debate. and it's not 51. a majority. the most important number in the senate is one. one senator. that's how it was set up. that's how our founders designed it. and with that comes tremendous amounts of responsibility. because the senate has a set of rules -- or at least did -- that gives each individual member the power needed to advance, change or stop legislation. and that's a tool that has to be mentored and refined and wise in
its application. most of the bills that pass the senate never receive a vote. we all know that. the vast majority of the bills. they're approved by unanimous consent. it just takes a single senator to withhold consent to stop most legislation. there are many other rules and procedures a member can use. they're often referred to as "arcane," but that's only because they're rarely used. they're not arcane. they were designed to protect liberty, to secure liberty, to make sure that we don't follow history and fail. every senator has the power to
introduce legislation and until recently offer amendments. no single senator should be allowed to decide what the rights of another senator should be. that's tyranny. has nothing to do with the history and classics of the senate. to exercise the rights we've been entrusted with, we must respect the rights of others. that's the true power of our constitution. that's all the true power of the senate. -- that's also also it is true power of the senate. -- that's also the true power of the senate. that's what binds our nation together and it's what's needed to make the senate work properly again. the senate was designed uniquely to force compromise, not to
force gridlock. to force compromise. one senator had the power to stop everything for the first hundred years. but it didn't because compromise was the goal. our founders understood that there were many differences between the states, both in size, geography, economy and opinions. they united the states as one country based upon the premise that the many are more powerful than the one. as senators, we have to follow this example. i've not always done that, i admit that freely to you. i should have. as senators, we must follow the example, stand for our
principles but working to find those areas of agreements where compromise can be find to unite and move our country forward. my colleague, senator carper, has my admiration because he's worked tirelessly the last two years to try to accomplish that. not all the powers of the senators are exercised on the senate floor. each member of the senate has a unique role to participate and practice oversight to hold the government accountable and that's part of our duties. except most often that's the part of our duties that is most ignored. to know how to reach a destination, you must first know where you are, and without oversight -- effective, vigorous
oversight -- you'll never solve anything. you cannot write a bill to fix an agency unless you have an understanding of the problem. and you can only know this by conducting oversight, asking the tough questions, holding the bureaucrats accountable, find out what works and what doesn't and know what has already been done. effective oversight is an effective tool to expose government overreach and wasteful spending but it also markedly exposes where we lose our liberty and our essential freedoms. i've had some fun through the years, taken some criticism for the waste book and its opinion,
i agree. everybody's that's in the waste book has a great defense of why it's there. but the real question is, is will we become efficient at how we spend the money of the american people? this is a big, big enterprise. there's no other enterprise anywhere close to the its size in the world. it's not manageable unless we all agree to try to manage it. and have the knowledge of it. i think there ought to be 535 waste books of yea books every . and then we ought to have the debate about where we're not spending money wisely. and have the information at our fingertips so we make great decisions. because, quite frankly, we don't make great decisions because we don't have the knowledge. and then what knowledge we do have we transfer to a bureaucracy to make decisions
about it when we should have been guiding those things. true debates about national priorities would come about if we did effective oversight. it is the senate, once hailed as the world's greatest deliberative body, where these differences should be argued. our differences should be resolved through civil discourse so they're not settled in the street. just as the constitution provides for majority rule in our democracy while protecting the rights of the individual, the senate must return to the principles to gain the trust of the electorate. and it can. our founders believed that protecting minority views and minority rights in the senate was essential to having a bicameral legislature that would give us balance and not move too
quickly against the very fundamental principles upon which this country was based. and not out of guessing but out of thorough knowledge of what had happened in the past. and we need to be very careful to guard both minority rights and the rule of law. there's no one who works in the senate that is insignificant, whether it's the people who serve us when we have lunch to the highest of the high. no one. they all deserve our ear. each of us has value. i'd end with one final comment. the greatest power that i have not used as a senator that i would encourage you to use in
the future is the power of convening. you have tremendous power to pull people together because of your position. to convene the opposite opinio opinions. chuck schumer's been great at that for me. when we have a difference, he wants to get together and convene and see how we work. and that power is the power that causes us to compromise, to come together, to reach consensus. so my encouragement to you is to rethink the utilization of the power of convening. people will come to you if you ask them to come. again, i would end by saying a great thank you to my family for
and i consider a motivational speech from our dear friend, tom coburn. 20 years ago, in 1994, there was a bunch of wild and crazy folks who got elected to the house of representatives and republicans took the majority for the first time in 42 years, ran on the contract with america, and were led by a group of firebrand leaders. tom coburn was in that group of folks who got elected in 1994 to the u.s. house. i was in that group. senator graham was in that group. senator burr was in that group. senator wicker was in that group. there were a few members of that class who became known as real bomb throwers. tom coburn was a bomb thrower. tom coburn was object for the sake of objecting, to anything that was going on, didn't make any difference which side of the aisle it was coming from. but let me tell you, tom coburn
matured into a class act, number one, which he always was. secondly, he matured into a legislator second to none. tom did not hesitate to object to any spending bill that came from either party if tom coburn believed that that was not provided for in the constitution and was something that the united states taxpayers should not be paying for. there is nobody who has guarded the pocketbook of the taxpayers of the united states like tom coburn.